Alumni Spotlight: Jessi Coryell

Jessi Coryell is from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and currently attends the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities. She has volunteered with VIDA twice in the past two years. Her first trip was December 27th, 2011 – January 9th, 2012, and her second trip was on the exact same dates the following year, from December 27th, 2012 – January 9th, 2013. She is studying Animal Science with an emphasis in Pre-Vet, enjoys the Spanish language, and hopes to travel to every country in Central and South America after Graduation.

Veterinary volunteer in Guatemala

Why did you decide to volunteer with VIDA in Guatemala?

Jessi: I decided to volunteer abroad with VIDA in Guatemala for the second year in a row because of the amazing opportunity it provides. For my first trip to Guatemala, my eyes were opened in a way I thought was not possible. Not only was I able to strongly participate in the Veterinary clinics, but I was also very culturally submersed. Working directly with the people and communities of Guatemala was the most exciting and eye opening experience I have ever had.

Also, traveling and volunteering with the VIDA program has been a part of the University of Minnesota’s Pre-Vet club for over 5 years now. I was fortunate enough to have been able to participate in the past two trips, and have full intentions to participate in many more.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Jessi: Each activity day varies quite a bit. I remember on my first trip, we participated in a historical and interactive tour of the city of Antigua which then led to a tour of the Jade museum of Antigua. We learned about the history of Guatemala’s government, as well as some history of the Mayans. On another day, we traveled by boat to a small town called San Pedro where we hiked to the top of a mountain, which the locals call “Nariz Indio” or “The Indian’s Nose”. On my second trip we went platform jumping into Lake Atitlan off of a 35 ft platform. Then later in the day, we traveled to a small town called San Lucas where we visited a Women’s Conservatory and learned about the process of spinning cotton and dyeing clothing using plants, fruits, and vegetables. At the end of that day, we went zip lining where we saw monkeys, waterfalls, and the most beautiful view of Lake Atitlan that you could possibly imagine.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Jessi Coryell: This volunteer experience is so special to me because of the amount of hands on work that is allowed. Between practicing sterility in a surgery or assisting in surgery by taking vitals and drawing up drugs, you are doing things that an individual of my status would not be able to do in the states. Although you are assisting in these surgeries, you are ALWAYS under Veterinary supervision, so there is never a need to be nervous or worried. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions at every step of the way.

The medical staff that is on the trip also made both of my trips unforgettable. The approachability and patience of each and every staff member that we worked with is what allowed for me to grow and learn so much. Participating in these trips also allowed me to be proud of what I choose to do with my life. Knowing that we are coming into these communities and educating the people of animal health, and how animals should be treated and respected is the most rewarding feeling.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Group of volunteers

Jessi Coryell: Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a Veterinarian. But as college continues and graduation gets closer, the stress can sometimes be overwhelming. Going on these trips has helped me see that all of the hard work and determination will someday soon pay off. VIDA trips have helped solidify what I want to do with my life. Also, assisting in surgeries opened my eyes to the surgical side of Veterinary Medicine.

Another way these trips have impacted my future plans is the cultural submersion that occurs while traveling. In high school I studied Spanish for all 4 years, and really enjoyed it. When I traveled to Guatemala, I often times caught myself blurting out Spanish anywhere I could, especially with the locals! My passion for learning and understanding the language grew immensely, and I have full intentions of now studying the Spanish language. I have hopes of becoming fluent, and travel around Central and South America after graduation! The culture and language has greatly impacted my life!